Protecting Your Home From Wildfires

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Wildfires infographicIt’s that time of year again for those of us who live in the boonies, when we need to start thinking about preparing to protect our homes from wildfires. If you are like us, and you live in the forest, wildfires are one of the most significant hazards that we deal with as a consequence of choosing to live where we live.

Perhaps one of the most important things to be aware of is exactly what the restrictions on burning are where you live. Many people who would like to live in the boonies think that it’s okay to have a campfire on your property during the summer and enjoy some good old roasted marshmallows and s’mores.

The fact of the matter is that in many areas of the country, if your home is in the forest, there will be a certain time of year when all outdoor burning is prohibited. For us, this generally happens every May 15th. Even though we live in the forest where you would think that having a campfire would be quite okay, campfires are actually only allowed in designated campgrounds and not on private property.

Steps You Can Take to Help Protect Your Home From Wild Fires

There are some things you might want to do to protect your home in the event that there is ever a wildfire where you live. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive but it is a good starting point. You might want to contact your local fire department about specific steps that they recommend taking in your area.

  • Make sure you have defensible space around your home. If you live in an area that is susceptible to wildfires, it would probably be a good idea to make sure that you remove any brush, tall grass, weeds, and trees that are near your home. They call this, “creating defensible space”. The idea is that by removing combustible materials that are near your home, firefighters will have a better chance of saving your home should a wildfire end up burning near it. If you have combustibles that are very near your home, it might be quite difficult for firefighters to prevent the fire from overtaking and burning your home. It would probably be a good idea for you to check with the local fire department to see how much defensible space they recommend clearing around your home in the area in which you live. Here’s a link to a helpful website with information about creating defensible space:
  • Be careful when using power equipment. It’s possible that using power equipment for everyday chores may result in a wildfire starting. Something as simple as a lawnmower blade hitting a rock in your yard can create a spark that can set a wildfire ablaze. Be especially cautious when using power equipment during the fire season. In many areas, such as where we live, certain activities are prohibited during fire season. Some of the activities that are prohibited are welding, grinding metal, using cutting torches, using chainsaws, etc.
  • Report prohibited activities. If you live in the forest, you will likely see people who come from the city to enjoy activities such as camping. In many parts of the country, fire season restrictions prohibit campfires except in designated campgrounds. If you see people camping outside of designated campgrounds and burning a campfire, the responsible thing to do is to call the local fire department so that they can make contact with the campers and have them extinguish the fire.
  • Don’t drive your vehicles over tall dry grass. Many people forget that the muffler and catalytic converter of vehicles get extremely hot. Driving your vehicle over tall dry grass can present a significant fire hazard.
  • Replace combustible roofing. If you have a roof that is made up of combustible materials such as cedar shingles, it might be a good idea to replace it with noncombustible materials. Every year, houses are lost to wildfires because embers from large wildfires land on the roof tops that are made up of combustible roofing materials.

Remember that living in the forest is a privilege, and along with this privilege comes responsibility that should not be taken lightly. One of the responsibilities for those of us who live in the forest is to do all we can to make sure that we are not the cause of a wildfire.

2 Responses to “Protecting Your Home From Wildfires”

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  1. Julie-Anne says:

    Hi Patty!
    I’m currently planning to build a cabin on Bly Mountain and have a few questions for you, if you don’t mind. I’d like to go with a metal roof for durability and low maintenance but how do you think metal would do in case of a wildfire? Would the metal get too hot and threaten the structure?

    Also, do you think that having a water tank holding several hundred gallons of water in case of fire is a good idea or basically a waste of resources? I’m also wondering if that would help with the cost and availability of fire insurance for the cabin, which I haven’t priced yet but I’m assuming is expensive and a bit difficult to get.

    Thanks for any help you can offer! I’m really enjoying your articles and website!
    All best,

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Julie,

      I’m no expert but I can tell you that we have a metal roof. I can’t say what it might do in a fire but the snow does seem to slide off of it easier than on an asphalt shingled roof. We also have a 1,500 gallon plastic water tank as well as a 450 gallon water tank on a trailer. We used to have a gas powered pump and hose on the trailer that we planned on using to spray water to protect our home and property in the event of a fire but the pump broke. We need to get another one.

      Thanks for your kind words and feel free to send me an email if you have any other questions.



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